Ginsburg: Third Coming of Felix Frankfurter?

By Eagleton, Thomas | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 1, 1993 | Go to article overview

Ginsburg: Third Coming of Felix Frankfurter?


Eagleton, Thomas, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Ruth Bader Ginsburg will soon be the 107th justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Where in the philosophical scheme of things will Justice Ginsburg fit?

It is something of a guessing game but not totally so. Presidents try to select justices who square with some of their more basic views. Ginsburg most assuredly squares with Bill Clinton's views on abortion and equal rights for women.

For a moment or two, she sounds like a judicial activist. The Supreme Court must be, she said, a "leader" and has "to legislate a bit."

"When political avenues become dead-end streets," she said, "judicial intervention in the politics of the people may be essential in order to have effective politics." Ted Kennedy smiled on this one. But then she writes, "Judges must be mindful of what their place is in society." She testified, "A judge is not an advocate. A judge is not a politician." Orrin Hatch grinned on hearing these words.

Ginsburg was asked which Supreme Court justices she most admired. Quickly, she named John Marshall, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis and Benjamin Cardozo. That tells us absolutely nothing. Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall could all have selected the same four. It's like a rookie in spring training telling a reporter, "I'd like to end up like Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente or Stan Musial."

Then she added a fifth name: John Marshall Harlan, who served on the court from 1955 to 1971. …

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